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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Surprise, surprise

All too often I am amazed by the boys. Considering that they have negligible social skills, it is surprising how they instinctively get some things perfectly right, all by themselves with absolutely no assistance from me or anyone else.

I have already mentioned, that on the whole, they don’t do too well with unique visitors. The more often someone visits, the more quickly they’ll adjust, but someone who just calls the once, usually comes off the worse for the experience. That said, there are always the exceptions. Not so long back some friends of ours came to visit. Usually we see them in the evening, all of us being child free having mortgaged our souls to a babysitter. Today they come with their youngest child, a sweet toddler of the female persuasion, whilst their older children are occupied with older children occupations elsewhere.

When the door bell rings, my children mob the front door to welcome guests in their own unique ways. The toddler hides behind the safe knees of her mother as by comparison, my children are fast moving and extremely loud. Both the boys spot the little girl. I clamp a discrete palm over my own youngest, whose current phrase is ‘girlz are stoopid! Girlz are stoopid! Girlz are stoopid!” which he repeats all to frequently regardless of company and generally without any reference to anything specific. He could just as easily say “nuts are round,” with the same tone of derision. His more socially adept, but oblivious older brother, notices my hand and connects the dots without assistance. He steps forward and crouches down to be on eye level with the toddler. How does he know that his bulk might be intimidating for a little one? “Hi, you are a girl?” he says it quietly, with a friendly soft tone and a gentle smile. The toddler grins, in silence. His head flicks back to his little brother, just to check, “oh no! You must not be saying that!” he hisses at him, a warning. I reassure.

“I can show you my room?” he offers. The toddler squirms, but still grins. “Maybe we can find some toys for you?” His brother chimes in, “you wanna play Pokemon wiv us?” His generous offer is quashed by his brother, “no dumbass, she just a little. We need to find er……small toys…….no……toys fur little kids.” Both boys hare off in unison, in a race to find the perfect toy for a small visitor.

Their exchanges are so swift that it’s hard to keep track of them as they’re on a roll, motivated. Each suggestion by the little one, is ridiculed by the older, “no, dumbass! Oopsie! Sorry. I dun mean to hurt yur feelings.”
“Das o.k. Wot about dis one?”
“No, dumbass! Oopsie! Sorry. I dun mean to hurt yur feelings. She could swallow dat, it’s too small for a little kid.”
“Das o.k. Wot about dis one?”
“No, dumbass! Oopsie! Sorry. I dun mean to hurt yur feelings. Dat’s a scarry fing for a little kid.”
“Das o.k. Wot about dis one?”
“No, dumbass! Oopsie! Sorry. I dun mean to hurt yur feelings. Dat’s a boy fing …..er…well…..I dunno maybe.” They continue this exchange whilst the toddler behind them wades through the growing pool of discarded substandard offerings. He sees her out of the corner of his eye and launches himself at her, “no, no, no” he cooes, “dat is too dangerous for you.” He whips the wooden toy hammer away like a pick pocket and slips back a flower with the slight of hand of a conjurer. His categories may be a bit off, but his intentions are pure.

I’m sure that there are a lot of boys around who have little brothers and sisters. They’re kind and gentle with them. There are other children without the benefits of modeling, who behave similarly. They’re comfortable being goofy and soppy with youngsters. My son has always been tender hearted when it comes to babies and toddlers, it could almost be part of the diagnoses. Such behaviour is so easily explained – he has a speech delay and poor social skills, it is easier for him to communicate with someone who is not a threat. It is not an explanation that I warm to.

When people connect autism with a lack of emotion and empathy, I am saddened. My children now have words, which they use and share with us. As often as not, even if these autistic children share the same humanity, they may not be able to express it in a way that we’re capable of understanding. Just because we can’t see it or hear it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

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